Even though natural disasters are rare in Hong Kong, when a typhoon hits Hong Kong, it can still cause serious property damage. A No. 8 typhoon or above, for instance, could cause anything from broken window glass to a whole window frame falling to the street. In today's Kwiksure article, we’ll examine exactly what damage caused by a typhoon is covered by home insurance.
Home insurance coverage
Home insurance mainly covers damage to the home, as well as damage to and loss of property inside the home. The damage or loss can be caused by emergencies such as theft, fire, flooding, a typhoon, etc. Home insurance will also cover third-party legal liabilities for casualties. Some home insurance plans will go further to also cover property lost outside the home, and may even include domestic helper insurance.
However, the coverage provided by different insurers and under different home insurance plans will differ, and the maximum compensation under each category will also be capped. On top of that, policyholders should pay attention to the exclusions under the policy. For example, some high-priced items, such as watches and paintings, may require additional premiums in order to be covered. Even where there is coverage, a cap on maximum compensation payout will still apply.
Like many other types of insurance, there is a "waiting period" for home insurance policies. During this time, the coverage will not take effect - so securing home insurance early on is of paramount importance. Plus, there is a "vacancy period" requirement, which stipulates that coverage will stop if a home is left vacant for more than 30 consecutive days. For other considerations and things to know when purchasing home insurance, please refer to our extended readings.
Fire insurance coverage
Why are typhoons and fire insurance related? Are we suggesting a typhoon can somehow end up causing a home fire? In truth, fire insurance does not just cover home fires, but also covers damage to building structures caused by a typhoon, bursting of a water pipe, a gas explosion, a mudslide, a vehicle-into-building crash, etc. The full name of fire insurance is building structure insurance, and as such, doors, windows, floors, walls, tiles, etc., as well as all structures and fixtures already there when the policyholder purchased the home, will be covered. As a result, if the structure of the building is damaged by a typhoon, the insurer will pay for the repair.
If a piece of window glass is broken in a typhoon, will it be covered?
If there is property damage inside the home because the window glass is broken, such as when a computer is damaged by rainwater, the property coverage under the home insurance plan will compensate for the loss.
If, on the other hand, a window falls on the street and injures a passerby, the third-party legal liability coverage of the home insurance plan will pay the damages when the injured person claims compensation from the homeowner.
An interesting but crucial question then arises: should the window repair cost be covered by the home insurance or the fire insurance? The answer to that depends on whether the windows are original or if they were installed after occupancy - in the former case, the repair costs will be covered by the fire insurance, whereas in the latter case, the costs will be covered by the home insurance.
Purchasing home insurance with building structure insurance
These days, many insurers will allow policyholders to add building structure insurance as a rider when they purchase home insurance. Naturally, the total premium will be lower, compared to purchasing two policies separately.
How to make a claim if property damage is caused in a typhoon?
If your home sustains damage in a typhoon and you need to claim compensation, the first thing you should do is take pictures of the damaged property and the home itself. You should also notify your insurance agent or broker, and provide the purchase receipts of the damaged property (if you have them on file) for the insurer’s reference. (With expensive appliances, you can actually make a photocopy of the receipt just in case the original fades or is damaged.) Depending on the circumstances, you can also produce the quotation for repair to the insurer.
If they judge it necessary, the insurer will arrange and pay for an assessor to visit the home of the insured to assess the extent of property damage.
If a window from your home falls on the street and injures passers-by, you should take pictures of the installation area, and keep a copy of the deposition, the police report, and other relevant documents, after which you should notify your insurance agent or broker. In addition, you should also avoid reaching any settlement or compensation agreement with a third party immediately, otherwise, the insurer may exercise their right to refuse to pay compensation.
Last but certainly not least, if you happen to have forgotten to renew your home insurance policy when an accident occurs, some home insurance plans will allow the policyholder to renew the same home coverage within 30 days, and still receive compensation for the home contents damaged.